CA defers DAR chief's confirmation over lack of track record
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Appointments (CA) has deferred the confirmation of Agrarian Reform chief John Castriciones over questions on his qualifications.
Castriciones was grilled on his seeming lack of track record to hold the top post in DAR but he denied it.
“I strongly believe I have the qualifications," Castriciones said during the hearing on Wednesday, March 14, adding he came from a family of farmers.
He said the Administrative Code states that an official only needs to fulfill two things: to be a natural-born Filipino citizen and be above 25 years old.
But Senator Grace Poe, chair of the CA committee on agrarian reform, questioned this and cited a more specific law – Republic Act 6389 or the Agricultural Land Reform Code.
Section 50 of the law states: “No person shall be appointed Secretary or Undersecretary of the Department unless he is a natural born citizen of the Philippines, with proven executive ability and adequate background and experience in land reform here and/or elsewhere for at least five (5) years, and at least thirty-five years of age.”
“This is a more specific code….We can always say you’ve handled cases that have to deal with agrarian reform. How do you answer this, having been given the Land Reform Code, RA 6389?” Poe said.
Castriciones, in response, said he has experience in dealing with agrarian reform cases as a general practitioner.
“With regard to that issue, I have handled cases pertaining to agrarian reform cases. I’ve also given advices to my mates who have been undergoing problems with agrarian cases. I’ve given advices to the consultations of my students who are now lawyers,” he said.
In an interview after the hearing, Castriciones told reporters that he has a Master’s degree in international law from the London Law Center.
“And of course that is also an advantage and it can really help,” he said.
Aside from questions on qualifications, Poe said Castriciones also has to explain about his involvement in a fatal hazing incident and in alleged money-making schemes.
Castriciones was appointed to the post in December 2017, after the CA rejected former DAR secretary Rafael Mariano.
Libel case vs reporter, track record
Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, one of the oppositors, also questioned Castriciones for being too “onion-skinned,” citing the libel complaint he filed against a Rappler reporter. (READ: DILG officials, employees urge Duterte to fire 3 undersecretaries)
Villarin also said employees in the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), where Castriciones was an undersecretary, supposedly disliked him.
If he heads the DAR, which has big challenges, then he would just be missing the point.
“When he was appointed undersecretary of DILG, he filed a libel case against a specific reporter. Now, if a public official is too onion-skinned about being cited by reporters, by the media, about his performance, then if he becomes secretary in a department that have these big challenges, then he would just be missing the point about having that position as secretary,” Villarin said.
Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Sato asked the DAR chief to submit a list of the supposed agrarian reform cases he handled to end the questions on his qualifications.
“The secretary may be right – his experience in the practice of law could be considered an experience for him to be secretary. He should not stop there….It is also the function of the Commission to really know what is inside the nominee. So may I ask the secretary, if he can submit…the list of cases he has handled for land lords and for the tenants?” Sato said.
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Poe agreed, with Lacson asking Castriciones to include the details of the cases’ disposition and resolution.
Castriciones seemed hesitant. “I will try my best, considering these cases have happened a long time ago,” he said.
But Sato replied: “Sir, just the title of the case, the number of the case. If you cannot do it, our staff can do it.”
There is no schedule of the next hearing yet. Congress is set to go on recess on March 24. If the CA does not confirm Castriciones by then, he would be considered bypassed and would have to be re-appointed again. – Rappler.com
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